Lisa Patterson of Mt. Juliet is one powerhouse volunteer, both in quality and longevity.
Patterson served in multiple capacities for the Parent-Teacher Organization at both Lakeview Elementary School and Mt. Juliet Middle School in each of the past 16 years, including the past four years as the PTO president at the Middle School.
And, if you do the math, that adds up to more than 5,000 hours of volunteering hours over that time, serving as a touchstone to help raise tens of thousands of dollars to help classroom and school needs.
Last month Patterson, a mother of three, was honored as MJMS’s Volunteer of the Year.
“I was truly honored the teacher and staff recognized me for this role and it was a blessing to receive,” she said. “I truly love Mt. Juliet Middle School. It’s given me the opportunity to get to know the teachers, parents and students.”
This was the first year that Wilson County Schools has recognized a top volunteer in each school.
Unbelievably, that is not the end of volunteering at school for Patterson. Her youngest child will be a ninth-grader at Mt. Juliet High School starting in August, and she said she agreed just last week to take on the task of serving as the high school PTO president for the next academic year. That will last only one year, as her family is zoned for the new high school in 2020.
“I am very honored, excited and nervous to be stepping into the role of PTSO president at MJHS,” she said last Friday. “With this being my first year in this role I don't see any big changes happening but I am definitely open to any that would help us raise money for MJHS, which has 2,200 plus students.
“I plan to continue working with (former MJMS principal) Mrs. (Leann) Rainey and teachers on classroom needs. I am looking forward to getting to know the staff at MJHS and also look forward to getting to know the students and families.
Patterson insists all know she’s only one part of a fantastic team of volunteers in the schools.
“I could never have done my job without our PTO board, committees and the entire MJMS family,” she said.
The making of a volunteer
Patterson explained what propelled her into the school volunteer world.
“It took me going into my daughter’s kindergarten class at Lakeview to gain a great appreciation of what teachers do,” she said.
And, it’s part of Patterson’s DNA to help. At Lakeview, she served in PTO roles such as fundraising coordinator, hospitality coordinator and volunteer coordinator. During her time there, she helped further progress on the school’s big fundraisers: the Fall Festival and Craft Fair and the cookie dough drive.
“Our goal was to pay more attention to silent auction items, and revamping some of the games to keep it fresh,” she said.
And Patterson said she was overwhelmed at times.
“I tell people, just paint a big ‘S’ on my forehead (for sucker), because I volunteer for everything and can’t say no,” she said with a laugh. “But I talk to the kids and see them have so much fun and the teachers appreciate what the PTO does so much.”
Patterson said that’s what makes her continue her volunteerism.
“It’s money raised to help our students,” she said.
When Patterson jumped headfirst into the PTO president’s role at MJMS, she said it was quite different. The school was much larger.
“The outgoing PTO president asked me to step up,” she said. “I did not want the school to not have someone take over this position.”
She directed, along with other PTO volunteers, a 5K run fundraiser and the selling of spirit wear. She said because the 5K was on Saturday and many of the students could not participate because of sports commitments, the major fundraising event changed to a Color Run held on a school day.
“We thought we could switch it to a Color Run on a school day where all students could attend,” she said. “We were so thrilled our principal (Rainey) believed in us and allowed us to take this new fundraiser on.”
In 2018, the first year the Color Run was held, the event raised about $15,000 through sponsorships and student participation fees. Last month, 850 students participated in the second event, which raised about $23,000. The PTO uses that money to purchase items for classrooms and the school, teacher appreciation events and equipment for sports teams.
Importance of volunteering
Patterson said she was a stay-at-home mom for 18 years, which allowed her to spend so much time at the schools. Now, she’s a part-time pharmacy technician, but manages to still volunteer.
“Any amount of time a parent can volunteer is amazing,” she said. “If you can’t take on a PTO position there are so many other ways to be involved.”
Special projects in the classroom, helping during fundraisers and donating to Teacher Appreciation Week are just a few opportunities for parents to contribute their time, she said.
Patterson is humble and doesn’t want a bunch of accolades.
“It’s just so rewarding,” she said. “I would recommend those who can, give it a shot.”